National News

Indian Country Sets Priorities With State Of Nations Address

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 09:00

Just days after President Obama delivered his State of the Union, National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby gave the annual State of Indian Nations address. Host Michel Martin speaks to Cladoosby about the issues facing Indian country this year.

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WATCH: Skydivers Save Unconscious Comrade In Midair Rescue

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 08:55

James Lee's helmet cam records his fellow skydivers coordinating a life-saving maneuver as he plummets toward the ground from 12,500 feet.

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PODCAST: Who will lead Microsoft?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 08:41

There’s a lot of chatter out there about who will be named as Microsoft’s next CEO. And there’s questions swirling about whether Bill Gates will step down as board chair.

When you're in a position of power, you get no shortage of unsolicited advice. Bearing that in mind, we wondered what sort of advice people might have for Janet Yellen, as she becomes the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, after Ben Bernanke's term ends today. 

This weekend's Super Bowl pits two states that have legalized recreational marijuana against each other -- the Denver Broncos versus the Seattle Seahawks. That's spawned all sorts of drug inspired nicknames, like the Stoner Bowl, and the Bud Bowl. But this weekend's game is a big opportunity for the pro-pot faction.

Mayday: What to do when the checks stop coming in

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 08:05
Over one million Americans lost their unemployment benefits at the end of December 2013 and millions more are looking at benefits ending soon. When those checks stop coming, you may throw up your hands and say something unprintable. I don't blame you. I've been there myself. But, as a pro at turning lemons into lemon-gimlets, I know that there are things you can do to keep your head above water and to hopefully maintain your home and lifestyle as long as possible.  All, of course, to get you to that next job:
  1. Cut back.  Now. More like yesterday. I've talked too many folks who lost their jobs but didn't pare back on spending and expenses. Soon enough, you end up staring down a very big financial hole. If your income stops, your habits and needs should change. It's hard to not eat out or drive less or miss vacations — I've had to do it several times myself — and you may already feel down about being out of work. But know that the changes you need to make now are temporary and incredibly helpful. Think Sandra Bullock in "Gravity": Depleting oxygen reserves requires slower breathing to make the air last. Same with your bank accounts. If you were going at 100 percent or even 80 percent when the checks were coming in, now it's time to get as close to 50 percent as you can. Spend shallow.
  2. Know what bills to pay first. When the housing crisis hit, many Americans in financial distress started paying their credit card bills before their mortgages. Thankfully that trend has reversed itself. Keeping a roof over your head, particularly if it's an asset worth something to you in equity, is vital. Credit cards can be a lifeline during tough money times but if you're falling behind  with payments, contact lenders before they contact you to talk about your options. And if they give you no flexibility, consider meeting with a nonprofit credit counselor (find one at www.NFCC.org) to help you with negotiations. Essentially, keep paying what would cost you dearly, personally and professionally, if repossessed or foreclosed like your home and your vehicle. In general, prioritize: mortgage or rent; auto loan and insurance; cell phone service (so you have access to recruiters and job connections; then other loans.
  3. Create and get comfortable with Plans B, C, and D. You need to ask and answer many questions with this one: What is your Plan B? What are your options in terms of worst-case scenario? This is not only about planning strategically about where you may need to head next for either money or a home, but also (and just as importantly), preparing yourself psychologically for what can be a temporary lifestyle adjustment. Lay out your options, including researching the possible need to apply for a hardship withdrawal from a retirement account and if you're willing and able to relocate for a new job. What does that look like? How much will it cost? What can you do to make a possible transition easier?
  4. Work! It doesn't have to be full-time work or work necessarily in your field. While you're applying for more stable positions on a career track, at the same time bring money in via other ways. If you're at a point in your career where you can be hired on a contract basis, reach out and offer yourself up. Two plusses here: First, it keeps you busy in the field and your resume continues to build. And of course, it brings in money and possibly could turn into a fulltime spot. Contracting isn't just for engineers. Look at sites like TaskRabbit.com, Fiverr.com, or Elance.com. They offer up short-term gigs from copy writing to assembling furniture.  The plus here is also psychological and social, not only financial. You keep busy and you meet new people, each who could be much more than a temp gig, it could be the connection you need to land that full-time job.
  5. Stay connected or get connected. What are the affinity groups or career groups open to you? For example, are you an accountant? What’s your local chapter of the National Society of Accountants up to? You don't have to be employed to be a member of many of these groups and they are fantastic places to meet people who can offer leads for new work. I'm on the board of a couple of nonprofit groups, professional and community-based and it's amazing the connections you make that can open new doors. And just as worthy are volunteer opportunities. We know that in this day of computers 'reading' thousands of resumes, the best way to the top of the pile is who you know. Is it fair? Not necessarily. But it's helpful. And if you feel icky about all the schmoozing, remember to reach a hand behind you once you land somewhere, pulling others out of unemployment just as someone may do for you.

Last Cars Towed In Atlanta; Ice Is Gone, Traffic Is Moving

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 07:57

Three days after ice-covered roads forced more than 2,000 drivers to abandon their vehicles, traffic is flowing again. State police and members of the National Guard spent the better part of two days helping people get their cars started again or towing vehicles away.

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Australia OKs Dumping Dredged Mud In Great Barrier Reef Park

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 07:45

The dredging operation is part of a plan to expand a coal port in Queensland. Environmentalists have warned that dumping sediment could kill off delicate corals, but park officials said dredging would be "subject to strict environmental conditions."

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Free Bieber dot com? This week's Silicon Tally

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 07:27

It's time for Silicon Tally. How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week, Tekzilla host Veronica Belmont takes on the tech gauntlet in our weekly Silicon Tally quiz. Play along at home, below.

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We're in a valuation bubble. It's cool!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 07:24

When people talk about Silicon Valley or venture capitalism a question that gets raised a lot is, "Are we in a bubble?" Traditionally, that means investors pay a lot more for a company than it's intrinsically worth -- sometimes by as much as a billion dollars. But venture capitalist Jalak Jobanputra is making a novel argument. Yes, we're in a bubble, she says. But maybe those crazy price tags are accurate. To find out why, click the audio player above to hear Jobanputra's interview with Lizzie O'Leary.

In an earlier version of this story, we misspelled the first name of Jalak Jobanputra. The text has been corrected.

Super Bowl point spreads: Seahawks, Broncos, and Gatorade

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 07:19

When it comes to Super Bowl action, you may think that it all happens out on the field.  Twenty-two men on the gridiron at any given time slogging it out, sometimes in freezing conditions, for the ultimate prize: the elusive Vince Lombardi Trophy. 

But stakes are not only high for the players, coaches, and the National Football League. Las Vegas stands to profit largely from the Super Bowl as well.  In fact, the Super Bowl is the biggest one-day betting event in Nevada and this year will not be different.  

R.J. Bell, sports betting expert and founder of Pregame.com, says when it comes to the big game we can expect to see a record number of wagers.  

"Last year actually was a record in Nevada. $99 million dollars was bet. This year, consensus opinion is that record is going to be broken. $100 million-plus is the expectation," Bell says.

According to Bell, Nevada’s bets only make up a sliver of all wagers on the Super Bowl.

"Only one percent is legal and regulated here in Nevada. $10 billion will be bet on this game worldwide."

You could look to social psychology to examine why the Super Bowl brings out the inner gambler in so many.

"It’s social, it's an office pool, it is a party where there's squares…," Bell says. "In fact, for a lot of people, if you're not involved with a little something on the game, you feel left out."

But gambling over what happens on the field is only part of it.  For those of us who either don't know about or don’t care about football, there is still action to be had. This is where proposition bets come in. 

Will any member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers be shirtless during their performance? 

Chances are… of course one or all of the Chili Peppers will be team skins. The oddsmakers agree.

Have an inkling about the color of the Gatorade that will be poured on the winning coach?  Yep, you can bet on that too.

Bell says that these prop bets allow "the casual fan, who is maybe only watching this one game" to get involved.

So whether you're rooting for the Seahawks or the Broncos, or red or blue Gatorade, odds are there will be winners and there will be losers.

Canada Used Airport Wi-Fi To Track Travelers, Snowden Leak Alleges

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 07:19

The latest secret revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shows how Canada's spy agency experimented with using free Wi-Fi signals to follow travelers. Officials tell CBC News that they were only collecting "metadata," not the contents of communications.

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Unrest imperils Thailand's economy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 07:09

Police presence ramped up Friday before Sunday’s disputed elections in Thailand. The government wants the public to go to the polls, despite huge anti-government protests that have been going on since November.

The unrest is rippling through Thailand's economy, especially tourism -- a big moneymaker for the country. Marketplace's Mark Garrison – currently on vacation in Thailand -- spoke with Lizzie O'Leary about the economic impact the protests are having. Click the audio player above to hear the interview.

My wife and I booked our trip before this all started and we decided to go ahead with it,” Garrison says. “But the problem for Thailand is that many people are doing the opposite. There have been waves of cancelations and you can see it walking around Bangkok. There are thinner crowds at the major tourist attractions, empty seats at restaurants and vacancies at the hotels.”

To put this in perspective, tourism in America is just over two percent of GDP. In Thailand it's more than seven percent -- far more important. And it has been one of the few bright spots in Thailand's economy recently. Both sides of this political debate know that, and that economic reality is shaping the protests in some interesting ways.

“What you don't see in most of the Western news coverage is that the anti-government groups demonstrating in Bangkok are staging rallies in places that are totally off the tourist map, far out of the way of foreign visitors,” Garrison says. “Right now at the most famous temples or the weekend market, it looks pretty normal and that's what both sides want. There's little common ground between them, but they agree that the tourism industry is vital and they don't want to damage it.”

The unrest comes at a difficult time for emerging markets, which have suffered significant losses in financial markets this week as investors retreat.

Global investors are already nervous in general, so the unrest in Thailand is giving them another reason to put their money elsewhere”  Garrison says. “Japanese automakers manufacture cars here and some execs have said they're rethinking plans for future investment. Investors who are thinking about putting money into Southeast Asia look at Thailand and see a place where this kind of unrest bubbles up every few years. Many of them are going to move that money.”

Marijuana advocates use Super Bowl as advocacy tool

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 06:59

This weekend's Super Bowl has all sorts of drug inspired nicknames — the Stoner Bowl, the Bud Bowl, the Weed Bowl, the Bowl Bowl. On Facebook, Cheech and Chong have suggested the tagline: "Lots of Hits. No Penalties."

The Denver Broncos will play the Seattle Seahawks, pitting the two states that have legalized recreational marijuana use against each other, making the game the perfect opportunity to talk marijuana — and marijuana laws.

"You are dealing with two likable and very visible teams from the legalized states," says Greg Wagner, a marketing professor at the University of Denver. For groups that want more legal pot, it's a chance they can't pass up. "Let's jump in there and be a part of the party."

A group called the Marijuana Policy Project spent $5,000 on pro-pot billboards near the stadium.

"Most people are just interested in the Super Doobie Bowl or whatever" says Kevin Oliver, with the Washington state affiliate of NORML. But he hopes that humor will turn into a bigger discussion about legalization and employee rights.

It's not a discussion that the NFL is in the mood for. The league declined comment.

Panama To Free Crewmembers Of Seized North Korean Ship

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 06:48

The Chong Chon Gang and its crew of 35 have been held since July, when Panamanian authorities found Cuban weapons aboard in violation of U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.

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Where is Microsoft going next?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 06:06

There’s a lot of chatter out there about who will be named as Microsoft’s next CEO. And there’s questions swirling about whether Bill Gates will step down as board chair. The company isn’t talking. 

But one thing seems clear: the tech giant wants to do more than be king of software.

Forrester analyst George Lawrie says the time has come for Microsoft to expand beyond its core software business. 

“In a way its traditional business is quite saturated. So from their perspective they’ve got to look for different sources of revenue,” he says. With nearly $80 billion in revenue last year, Microsoft is well positioned to pivot.

“Microsoft certainly needs to expand its horizons, but the question of in which direction,” says Roger Kay, president of runs Endpoint Technologies Associates. Kay says the company has had some hardware success, Xbox for example.

But there’s something a little cannibalistic about the move.

“Microsoft’s traditional customers, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Lenovo are all in the hardware business. And so basically Microsoft starts competing with its own customers when it moves into hardware,” he says.

The smart money, says Kay, may be internet services, something like Amazon. Whoever becomes Microsoft’s CEO, Kay says the test is to pull the company’s different businesses together and thrive.

Yahoo Says Email Accounts Were Hacked But Not How Many

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:50

The company, which provides the world's second-largest email service, says "the list of usernames and passwords that were used to execute the attack was likely collected from a third-party database compromise."

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No Breakthrough, But 'Bit Of Common Ground' In Syria Talks

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:46

It's hoped that the talks will resume on Feb. 10. U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi says a "wide" gap remains between the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition. But he believes they may agree on more than they realize.

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Advice for Janet Yellen

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:38

When you're in a position of power, you get no shortage of unsolicited advice. Bearing that in mind, we wondered what sort of advice people might have for Janet Yellen, as she becomes the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, after Ben Bernanke's term ends today. We took a sampling, not just from those who know the Fed, but from some regular folks, too.

DONALD KOHN, Former Vice Chairman, Federal Reserve

Dear Janet,

Better you than me. May the force be with you.

Your friend,

Don Kohn

 

ED MORALES, a tourist from California we caught up with near the Fed building in Washington

Dear Janet,

Treat others as you would want to be treated.  Obviously going in and talking with your coworkers... Give them the respect that you would want, and obviously you would receive the same respect in return. And it would make for a better work environment.

Sincerely,

Ed Morales

 

SUSAN TENDALL, of North Potomac, Md.

Dear Janet,

If I were to give advice to my four grown children on the first day of their jobs, I would tell them to try and find somebody they can mentor with. Take lots of notes, review those notes every night until you know what you’re doing, and keep a smile on your face and to not give up.

Sincerely,

Susan Tendall

 

JOHN MAKIN, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Dear Chairman Yellen,

Congratulations on your appointment as Fed chairman. One of the things that's important to remember is that the usual problem the Fed faces – rising inflation – is no longer present. In fact, deflation is a primary threat to a stable and growing economy. As you proceed with deliberations with the FOMC, I hope that you will put a higher priority on avoiding deflation.

With very best wishes for success in what I’m sure you know is a challenging job,

John H. Makin

Early bird alert! You can file your taxes starting today!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:31

Income tax season is upon us. Today is the first day you can file, electronically or on paper. Rejoice! Sound the trumpets! Ready your calculators. Nah. Let’s be honest, most early filers are not filing early, unless they know they’re receiving a refund.

“There’s certainly no reason for them to let the IRS keep their money for two months or more, till April 15th,” says John Ams, executive vice president of the National Society of Accountants.  "They want to get it now and I would certainly not blame them.” 

But though we may be reluctant to think about it, Ams says there are multiple reasons to get an early start.  There are people who qualify for tax credits -- and want their money. And then there are the uber-responsible taxpayers -- those who are sensible enough to think well beyond the end of this tax year, and all the way into the misty future years of their retirement. Chuck McCabe, president of the Income Tax School, says this kind of advance planning is yet another good reason to file early.

If you do  you can get your refund in time to fund an IRA.  

“You can actually deduct the amount you plan to contribute to an IRA from your tax return even though you haven’t opened the IRA yet,” he says.

Tax magic! McCabe notes that even for those of us who owe the IRS and are planning, instead of mature and responsible fiscal action to fully embrace procrastination -- even we should still file early. Filing an extension, notes John Ams, won’t help postpone the real pain.

“It’s the return that’s not due till Oct. 15th,” he say. “You do not get an extension of time to pay. The money is still due April 15th.”

We know you don't want to, but here are 10 reasons to file your taxes early:

  1. Get it over with already! If you think you’ll owe taxes, you find out sooner how much you’ll owe. Filing early will give you time to budget, or, to save money before the balance is due. And, if you find out you owe a ton, you can always make a payment arrangement with the IRS.
  2. Get your refund, now. The National Society of Accountants says in recent years early filers have received refunds in 21 days. Taxpayers filing nearer the deadline day waited an average of 31 days. Why wait for your money?
  3. Help the children. Having your tax return may help in getting financing. Banks and other lenders, especially small business lenders, often require current tax returns to be submitted with loan applications. And if you have children applying for college financial aid, your tax return information may be required for the financial aid form.
  4. Take your financial responsibility to the next level. Use your tax refund to fund an IRA. The IRA contribution doesn't have to be funded until your tax filing deadline (April 15 for most people).
  5. Prevent mistakes. Want a a sleep deprived, overworked accountant doing your taxes? Not so much. One extra zero, or a missing deduction could hurt, big time. Get your taxes done early when your tax preparer is feeling energetic and ready to go.
  6. Buy yourself time. The last minute is no time to discover a wrinkle that complicates your tax situation. Nor is the last minute the time to make a hurried and careless mistake in your return – a mistake that could trigger an audit.
  7. Prepare for the ultimate battle. Let's say you do get audited. Filing early means you had time to get your paperwork together and think through your decisions. Maybe the IRS has questions about deductions for your home office or chartiable contributions but you are READY. Bring it taxman! 
  8. Beat the criminals to your refund. Identity theft is a pricey problem when it comes to taxes. If a thief files a false return using your stolen identity (before you file a real one) it could take up to a year to get your money back. Beat the bad guys by filing your return first. 
  9. Skip the line. If you're one of the three out of ten taxpayers who still mails in your returns on paper the line at the post office in April is going to be LONG. Skip the hassles and file now.
  10. Sleep better. You know you will.

(Answers adapted from the National Society of Accountants and the Income Tax School.)

Reports: Insider Satya Nadella Likely To Be Microsoft's CEO

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 05:00

CEO Steve Ballmer announced last summer that he would be retiring. The search for a successor may be coming to an end. News outlets report that one of Microsoft's executive vice presidents is in line to take over. There's also word that co-founder Bill Gates may be replaced as chairman of the company's board.

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Congressman's Exit Closes Book On 'Watergate Babies'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-31 04:01

It wasn't just the gargantuan size of the Democratic class of 1974 that made it historic. The members of the class were young, relatively new to public office and remarkably certain they could remake Washington in their own image.

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